«We need to look into the past in order to understand the present and foresee the future»
N.A.Nazarbayev

It is difficult ‘to keep the saddle’

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It is difficult ‘to keep the saddle’
For the second time the Tlep Aspantayuly Charitable Foundation gathers performers and musicians on stringed instruments from around the world at the Tlep Aspantayuly International Competition

The event is organized on the occasion of the 260th anniversary of birth of Tlep Aspantayuly, who is an outstanding Qazaq kobyz player and composer. His contribution to the development of the Qazaq musical culture of the 18th century is significant.

The life of Tlep Aspantayuly is shrouded by legends and sagas. According to one of them, the sacred kobyz of Korkyt ata passed to his student Koylibay baksy, and from him to Tlep. Tlep Aspantayuly was born in the Turgai steppes, he learned to play kobyz at his early age. At the age of 13 he already conquered fellow countrymen’s hearts with his talent.

On the basis of memories we know that Tlep Aspantayuly accompanied his performances by reading poetry. Unfortunately, the creativity path of the great kobyz player has not been appropriately researched. Just a few ‘kuy’s (Qazaq traditional music) survived. They are ‘Tolgau’, ‘Allam Zhar’, ‘Baksy’ and others.

Organizers of the competition decided to gather all creative people from all over the world with an aim to make popular music, playing on kobyz and keep identity of national culture.

The competition was attended by participants from 15 countries of the world, including Hungary, Germany, Bulgaria, Mongolia, China, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, India, Azerbaijan, Iran, many regions of the Russian Federation, etc.

On the eve of the competition, we managed to meet with participants from Japan, Mrs. Yumiko Takeuchi and her husband Mr. Takeshi Takeuchi.

Japanese musicians play on the Mongolian bowed string instrument called ‘morin huur’. ‘Morin huur’ is a bowed string instrument, which looks like Qazaq traditional instrument called ‘zhetigen’. Yumiko Takeuchi was born near Tokyo, in Ibaraki Prefecture.

Today they live and work in Tokyo. All members of the family love music. Mrs. Yumiko Takeuchi’s husband also works in the field of music. Their eldest daughter plays the saxophone. The youngest plays the Mongolian traditional instrument.

- Dear Mrs. Yumiko, Welcome to Astana! Tell us, why are you so interested in playing Mongolian musical instruments?

- Since my childhood I started playing the piano. Then I played the guitar. I lived in the Itabashi area, Tokyo. So, the Itabashi area and the city of Ulan-Bator are twin cities. Once, at a joint event, I heard an amazing sound of this instrument. So, I wanted to learn how to play it and started to study.   

-Is music your main profession? Or is it just a hobby for you?

– At present moment I am fully occupied with music. It is very difficult for a musician in Japan to find a job by profession, so every musician has his own profession. At first, music was for us a hobby, and now it has already captured us completely. We have different professions. For example, Mr.Takeuchi specializes in Information Systems. He is an IT engineer. And I was a pharmacist in the past, but now I'm engaged only in music.

- Do you know Qazaq national instruments?

- The contestants that are participating in this competition will be playing the kobyz. So, we practiced playing the kobyz. We first saw dombra in Tokyo. A student from Qazaqstan studies at Tokyo University of Arts. Once he played dombra, and then we first saw this instrument. We know about dombra.

- Have you learned to play the kobyz recently?

- No. We just watched how people play the kobyz. We play the instrument that is called ‘morin huur’. It looks like a kobyz. ‘Does it have the same deep, piercing sound like a kobyz?’ - There are some identical sounds, but there are other, specific ones. I am now very interested in the kobyz and I want to study and master this instrument in the future.

- The origin of the kobyz is connected with an ancient legend. The legend says that Korkyt ata could not accept the fugacious nature of human life and time and in his lonely torment he made the first kobyz, pulled strings on it and played, fighting against the inevitable death. Kobyz seems to connect different worlds with each other. Does the Mongolian instrument have a similar analogy?

- In the Mongolian literature there is a similarity, related to the instrument of morin huur. In ancient times there was a war, escaping from enemies, the inhabitants of the village wanted to run through the river that ran near the village. But they could not go through the river in any way. Then the old man began to play on morin huure and the river stopped and opened the way to the inhabitants of the village. Therefore, they believe that the instrument is connected with the other world. At this contest I will play the piece ‘The Melody of the Oirat People’. This work will sound in a modern modified arrangement.

- How do you feel when you play this melody?

- This work taught me a teacher from Mongolia. When I was playing, I was told: ‘play openly, freely’. While playing the piano, the teacher will never tell you such words, but while playing the bowed string instrument she said that you have to pull. The Mongolian melody conveys the wideness of the Mongolian steppe. When you play this piece, the instrument conveys all these feelings.

– It is like playing the dombra. When a ‘kyu’ is performed on the dombra, you can hear the tramping of hooves of horses and the wind in the boundless steppes.

- Yes, it is very similar.

- You have different cultures and mentality. In Mongolia - the steppes are endless, they breed horses, and in Japan - the terrain is mountainous, there is no animal husbandry. How did you understand, feel the melody?

- In Mongolia, as in Japan, the gods of rivers, mountains are worshiped. When I was little we had a mountain in the village. We always believed that God lives there. We worshiped the mountain god, as well as in Mongolia. This kind of nostalgia for childhood. Of course, these two different countries, but Japanese people are very fond of Mongolia and many Japanese tourists often travel there. Culture is different, but there are common features, elements. Now in Tokyo, life is so fast, everyone lives and works in a hurry, and Mongolian music is so relaxing. Therefore, I wanted the Japanese, after listening to this music, could rest, too. So, I started to do it.

– This can be understood, too. The modern rhythm of life is fast, dynamic. You can compare Qazaqstan’s city and aul.

- Now we live in Tokyo, but grew up in the village. Therefore, we have nostalgia for these times, when we lived alone with nature. ‘I heard that misfortune has happened to your musical instrument’. - Yes, unfortunately my instrument broke down in the plane. We did not know what to do. Our friends phoned to the Mongolian Embassy in Qazaqstan. We were lucky, they had an instrument and they gave it to us for temporary use. Of course, this is not your own instrument, but we will try to play well.

We compare playing the morin huure with landing on a horse. When we have misses, failures, we say ‘fall off the saddle of the horse’. There is such an expression. Of course, this is another instrument, but we will try.

- Good luck. I wish you to perform well on the stage and I hope you can keep the horse’s saddle.

- Thank you!

The international contest named after Tlep Aspantayuly promises to be bright and unforgettable for everyone who visited Astana these days, despite the cold autumn weather.

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